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 A Legacy Forgotten

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PostSubject: A Legacy Forgotten   Mon Jul 24, 2017 4:38 pm

The trials were over. The vault lay waiting. Alec Smith, a small-town gunslinger; Smiley, a demon possessing a corpse; and Sandra, a failed science experiment. These three were now all that remained of Durender's Knights. The only champions it had in its darkest hour.

The Blight had been loosed upon the place. Devices and artifacts of great power turned against them. The journey into the vault's depths was a constant battle, but their strength prevailed. Scavenging what artifacts remained uncorrupted, they turned the tide against their foes, the former Knight Order of Durender. There were many strange things to be found there. A box with a label reading "DO NOT OPEN UNTIL THE END OF TIME." A necklace which unleashed unspeakable horror on whoever stole it. A piece of another world, suspended in space. The vault had many shelves and many objects, enough to spend hours perusing, but alas, their time was running out.

On one of the lower levels they found icons of the Gods. The Lyre of Kita, which when played, unlocked the answers within oneself. The alleged Shield of Vintar, a humble wooden buckler. The Lantern of Lothe, which revealed the hidden nature of the world. To avoid the wrath of the Gods, they each took but one item. Alec, who wore the cloak of Vintar's Champion, took the shield. Sandra took a locket belonging to Myra. Smiley took a vial of tears, extracted from Mordyr himself by the dragon god Tarshus the Crucifier.

The reason for their journey up to this point was about to reveal itself. Far below ground, the vault had been breached by a monstrous worm, opening it to all the creatures of the underworld. A coven of vampires, led by an Elder, had kidnapped Terri and her father, Tyrion, intending to harvest their blood to open one final door, which guarded the vault's greatest secret. The "key" which had been so vehemently sought for centuries was not shaped of metal, but was tied to the descendants of its guardian, Eleanor Duvedirfel.

Despite their desire to pillage the vault for themselves, the vampires would not risk it. A horror had followed Terri, as it had all of her days - the Dark One. It brought the Blight, a disease of the blood that corrupted flesh and brain and made one a slave to its will. So a tenuous alliance was formed - the three would-be Knights combined forces with the vampires to open the vault - preferably without harming Terri or her father.

The deal struck, the group proceeded into the antechamber. Here were some of the strangest artifacts they had yet seen...

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PostSubject: Re: A Legacy Forgotten   Wed Jul 26, 2017 6:08 am

A beating heart was suspended by metal prongs in a glass case. An inscription on the outside read, "THE HEART OF A GOD".

A brain was suspended in preservatives inside of a jar. The brain sparked and pulsated, as if inside of a living skull. Its sign read, "DO NOT LISTEN".

An ominous orb floated unassisted in its case, the air around it darkened and distorted. "KEEP AWAY".

A music box rested on a shelf inside its case, unopened but inviting. "NEVER OPEN AGAIN".

A book on a lectern, closed and fastened shut with a belt. "TO BE FORGOTTEN".

A compass dangled from a chain inside its own display case. "DO NOT FOLLOW".

Last of all, in a secluded corner, in a darkened case, stood an obelisk of obsidian. "BEWARE ITS KNOWLEDGE".




Alec stood still for a moment, observing all the pieces in the room. "...Chaos..." he muttered, slowly pacing over each sealed item. "...Everythin' here brings chaos. Don't know.. from what... but whatever we did, it brought things t' Aeria, things that the Numbers had t' fight." The answer was a bit cryptic for something coming out of Alec's mouth, he had to admit, but there wasn't much better a way to explain it.

"That explains all of the defenses," Sandra says. "And all of the random items in the upper floors. It's all a distraction from the stuff that actually needs to be down here." Sandra looks around at the objects on display - the beating heart, the brain in a jar, the compass, a floating orb, a locked book, and a tall black obelisk.

Alec wandered back to the locked door, standing beside Regent. He looked upon it. "...What're you thinkin'? I'll take anythin' right now."

The Regent frowns."It is a lock the likes of which I have never seen before. Custom-built, no doubt, and highly advanced for its time. I am no locksmith, granted, but it invokes a distant memory... that of the sort of lock I might place inside a safe."

"...A failsafe that locks itself indefinitely if the safe's forced open?" Alec mused, for he could think of no other lock one would put in a safe. "Well, that ain't reassurin' me much..."

"So we need to open it with a key," Smiley says.

"Or a combination," Sandra interjects. "Any idea what that could be?"


Alec looked down at his feet to examine the slot again, observing the shape of the slot. "Take a look, Sandra. This's meant fer somebody special. I don' reckon a Knight'll do. Ya wouldn' make a safe with a failsafe lock the same's the outer lock. So... who's our key this time 'round?"

"I'm not entirely sure," Sandra says. "If it's someone specific, then we can't open it, because whoever it was isn't alive today... Tairne Welfyr built this vault, presumably. But he wasn't a knight... who would he trust that wielded a sword? Vintar himself?"

"You got his shield, didn't you?" Smiley says. "Maybe that's the key!"

Alec had almost forgotten about that shield. Sitting on his back, it was like a part of the armor, a second skin. He reached for his back. Sliding along the surface of the armor, it was loosed from the cloak and came to rest in Alec's hands. The shield is a battered wooden kite shield, and thus has a pointed end which fits neatly into the slot. Nothing happens.

"...Well, it was worth a shot," Sandra says. "There must be more to it."

Alec gets up, and tries to remove the shield, just incase some surprise were in store. "Good try, Smiley." He'd eye the vault door. "Whatever we need t'do t' get through here, the Blightcaster's a'ready done it, n' he didn' have the shield..."

The Regent steps up to the door, eyeing it closely. "These pieces here... they look manipulable. Perhaps in the right configuration..."

Sandra looks at the mechanism. "We don't have time to guess."

"Maybe they wrote the combination down somewhere," Smiley says.

"And why would they do that?" Sandra says with frustration. "We're just gonna have to blast it open, somehow."

"Hang on. Blastin's not gonna cut it. We managed t' bend apart two plates'a tolerum at an angle 'cause it had faults. This's one plate, n' a'reckon it's layered over others with some other materials between 'em. There ain't any way we're blastin' through with brute force, Sandra. Keep yer head cool."

Sandra takes a deep breath, clearing her head. "Okay, there has to be some way of figuring out the combination. Some of the knights probably knew it, except they're all dead or blighted..." she continues thinking, eyes fixed on the door and its workings.

Smiley looks around the room, on the floors, walls, and ceiling. She looks at the strange objects with curiosity.

"We're gonna have t' draw correlations another way... A'right. Regent, how many pieces are there, by yer count?"

"Seven," the Regent answers. "Surely they can't be part of the opening mechanism... could they?"

"They could be part of the solution," Sandra speculates. "Seven objects, seven gods... wait a minute."

Smiley, meanwhile, seems to gravitate towards the black obelisk.

"I was thinkin' the same thing," Alec said as he looked at Sandra. "Somethin' all the Knights knew. The trial'a Vintar. The order'a the trials." He eyed the lock. "All that's left is t' figure out how enter the order." He began to circle around the room. "A'right, let's assume the digits on the lock are numbered from one t' seven, goin' left t' right... What's our one t' seven on these objects, n' who do they belong to?"

Alec had begun to walk around and read the inscriptions and warnings on the display of each object again for clues.

"A second set of icons..." Sandra says with surprise. "Yet all of these seem... malicious."

"So they seem," the Regent says, turning to her, "but seeming malicious and being malicious are two different things."

"I've seen this somewhere before," Smiley says all of a sudden. She is gesturing to the obelisk.

Alec turns to Smiley, staring at her. "What? Explain yerself, Smiley." He approached the obelisk and inspected its display again.

BEWARE ITS KNOWLEDGE is written on the warning at the base of the obelisk. It is made of an obsidian substance that bears an uncanny resemblance to Alec's cloak, but it has no affiliation with the Way Matrix at all. Near it, one can feel the weight of ages upon it. Whatever it is, it is unfathomably old.

Alec stared at the obelisk. He reached out, as though intending to touch it, but withdrew on some intuitive reflex. "...I reckon... this one's Scilla's," he said somewhat vacantly, like it had also struck him as familiar.

"I think I know what the orb is. If it's what I think it is..." Sandra says. "...It could be Mordyr's."

"The brain is Tyra's," Regent says. "Perhaps not his actual brain, but it... hungers. I am no stranger to such desire."

"Could the heart be Vintar?" Smiley asks. "It's still beating, even after all this time in a dusty old vault."

Alec peers at the music box. "Myra's the goddess'a forgiveness... this's Myra's. Nothin' ever felt so unforgivin' t' me before." He turned to peer at the book and compass. "N' that leaves two."

Alec glanced at Sandra once more. "Who're we missin' ?"

"Lothe and Kita," she says. "Lothe seems like the obvious choice for a book, which leaves the compass for Kita. I think that's right..."

Alec looked over the objects, numbering them in his head, mirroring their positions relative to the door. Eyeing the digits, he figured they were simply buttons or switches. He began to press them in the order of the trials, and spoke an eerie message as he did. "Keep away to be forgotten. Do not listen, do not follow. Never open again, beware its knowledge: the heart of a god." He pressed moved the final piece.

Alec turned back to the slot in the floor. As before, he took Vintar's shield, as it felt appropriate. Kneeling before the slot, facing the door, the gunman inserted the shield, point first.

The mighty door comes to life. The levers and gearshifts turn and unlatch, and in the center, a small aperture opens. Just within it is a rippling black fluid.

Alec rises to his feet and places the shield on his back again. "...That wasn't part'a the puzzle," he informed the others. "..That was the warnin'."

"Is that what's inside? The heart of a god?" Sandra wonders aloud.

"Why would a god's heart be so covetous?" Regent says. "Such a thing would be an object of great power, yes, but nothing that would upset the balance of power in the sphere."

"Depends on the god," Smiley says.

"There's only one god," Alec said, essentially correcting them all. "The rest that call 'emselves that got all their power from everythin' it made. Welfyr was a smart man. I reckon he must'a figured that one out." Alec then paused, surprised that he would know that.

The Regent looks ready to say something, but stops himself. He merely nods his head in agreement.

"Interesting, but the door's still closed," Sandra says. "It just opened up that little slot... you don't stick your hand in there, do you?"

"Looks a bit small for that," Smiley adds. "But that black stuff kinda looks like your cloak and that obelisk."

"I know," Alec said. "It ain't, though. It's more... raw. Makes me wonder if the Knights were ever meant t' pass through 'ere t' begin with... it's feelin' less n' less like this was made fer them." Alec approached the opening. "I ain't too sure what t' do 'bout this, t'be honest. If the cloak's any clue, I'm supposed t' do somethin' like take control'a the fluid, n' part the door n' waters. Reckon if it's the raw stuff, there ain't any restriction's keepin' someone from doin' that, but who knows. Well, here goes nothin'."

Alec had a feeling that wherever this 'raw' stuff came from, it was probably incredibly dangerous, and not to mention, full of raw, unrelenting, unforgiving energy, some of which he would feel as heat, for sure... Who knows what other calamities could befall him if he failed to control the substance. Bearing that in mind, the gunman extended the presence of his sacred field through the cloak, and extended the presence of the cloak out to touch the pooling fluid. Even with his mastery, he didn't entirely trust himself to do this right, but perhaps if he could use the cloak's ability to replicate itself, the cloak could be his medium of control. Alec attempted to spread the cloak through the flowing dark fluid, and if successful, push the flow apart, to the sides, and perhaps force the doors open further in the process.

Alec fails to take control of the substance. A powerful backlash sends a surge of energy straight into him, travelling through his cloak like a wire. Just when it seems like the substance will kill him, it pauses, easing away from his hand like a cornered animal. Small feelers emerge from the rippling surface of the fluid, touching Alec's hand and the cloak around it.

Alec is struck by the energy, and he immediately attempts to reel back and scramble away, but he is caught, stuck and just about powerless. Then, he is released. Alec watches with confusion as his hand is inspected. It felt strangely familiar, like the times Redwell seemingly possessed the cloak against Alec's will. For whatever reason, Alec tried talking to the wall. "...Who are ya?"

The substance attempts to reestablish the connection between them. As its feelers probe Alec's cloak, he receives flashes of emotion. It understands him, and is prepared to resist again if threatened.

Alec hesitantly allows the connection, relaxing his control over the cloak. The cloak's passive workings don't appear to hinder this connection, either, and do not try to purge the substance, probably due to Alec keeping the mechanism at bay.

The substance does not try to harm Alec or his cloak. Instead, it merely seems curious. Its purpose suddenly becomes clear in Alec's mind, perhaps planted there by this intelligence. It is the final barrier to entry. It decides who may enter. To do that, it must determine who Alec is.

What an absurd question. Alec knew who he was. How could he explain that to someone else, though? Time, actions, conversations, conflicts, decisions, deliberations, many things would eventually define him to a person with enough interaction. But like this, he didn't know what to do. So he shrugged. "How?"

The entity presents Alec with an image of the locked door opening. Alec is standing behind the door.

Alec stared at the aperture with disbelief. "I ain't a fan'a metaphors, guy... Whatever, I'll try." Alec thought back to his encounter with Lord Volucris, and their mental exchange. It was a long time ago, but he remembered how it was done. Alec opened his mind up. But it was a two way exchange, and he wondered if something would slip in from the other side, as before.

The entity probes Alec's innermost thoughts. It is likely to be a deeply uncomfortable experience, having an alien intelligence sift through the mind's contents, stirring up things long buried, learning things that common sense would keep hidden from anyone else. But after a minute or two of this unpleasantness, and concerned looks from all of Alec's companions, the feelers retract, and with a blast of air, the door unseals itself and slowly swings outward.

Alec lowers his arm and takes a step back. His helmet protects him from the gust, allowing him to see within as the door is at last opened. "...Well, now that the hard part's over," he mumbled. "...Got'a wonder how the bad guys got through tha' one, though."

Behind the door is a massive chamber with a domed ceiling webbed with massive tolerum supports. The entire chamber seems lined with the stuff, and is at least one hundred meters in diameter. And then there is the floor. The tolerum plating does not extend all the way to the walls of the chamber... because it's merely a walkway. At regular intervals are braziers of unknown origin, which provide dim light. There is also a bright light emanating from below, but its source can not be glimpsed from here. In fact, the chamber appears bottomless.

"Impossible..." Sandra says, awestruck.

"And yet it exists," the Regent replies. "There is extraordinary power here."

Alec felt extroardinary familiarity with the room, despite having never entered. It wasn't even the room itself, but something in it. He began stepping forward, crossing the walkway. "...the Heart," he said, as he went to peer over the edge of the walkway and into the light source.

A set of walkways spirals down the perimeter of the room, towards a large black sphere suspended in the center. The glow is not from the sphere itself, but beyond. Inside the massive chamber, far below them, arcane tempests rage, and strange points of light flit about like insects at a candle. Farther down still is a light brighter even than the sun. Though barely a pinprick, it lights the entire chamber. Could it be?

Alec's steps halted the moment he was able to see down the abyss. This time, he repeated his words with more certainty. "The Heart... He did know." As though caught in a trance, Alec was left staring down at the pinprick revealing one of the world's greatest secrets to him.

"I don't see the blight-caster," Sandra says, not noticing Alec's trancelike state.

"He must be here," responds the Regent. "Unless..."

"Think fast!" Smiley fakes pushing Alec over the edge, only to keep hold of him.

Alec didn't actually budge. It was only after Smiley was hugging him that he took notice, and looked at her. "Hm? What?" He looked around. The words that were spoken had processed long after their utterance, and Alec caught up with the conversation. "Well... there's no second-guessin' anymore. We keep advancin'. He's bound t' show himself when we get too close t' the prize."

"...Anyone feel that?" Sandra asks. Shortly thereafter, the platform they're on can be felt shaking.

"He never got past the final door. He couldn't stop us either, so he... let us pass." As the Regent finishes his sentence, a terrible crash comes from somewhere behind the door. The door which is still open.

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PostSubject: THE FINAL BATTLE - PART 1   Wed Aug 09, 2017 9:40 am

Appropriate battle music

The mighty door begins to close, but it is too late. The tunnelworm, dozens of feet long and driven mad by blight, bursts into the chamber at breakneck speed.

Though taken off-guard, Alec's reflexes prevail. In an instant Unbreakable is in his hand, aimed behind him, with his head turned back just enough to put the tunnelworm in the corner of his gaze. The cloak envelops the gun, fueling its enchantment as a barrier of pure force rises to meet the advancing worm. Alec did not hit the worm, or the tolerum vault, as either would have absorbed the magic. Instead he struck his own cloak's material as it hovered over the barrel of the gun, making the barrier appear in mid-air.

The worm impacts the barrier with tremendous force. Its scimitar-like teeth, nigh indestructible, are not shattered, but instead forced into the worm's flesh as its body collapses against the invisible wall. Despite the fatal impact, it still moves. The teeth stab out from the sides of its body, wielded by homunculi of flesh. The blood that spills from the wounds collects in large pools, and raises itself of its own accord into animated blobs. Tiny white worms spill out, writhing on the ground and emitting small squeaking sounds as they blindly struggle. A boil forms on the top of the mighty worm, which bursts in a shower of pus to reveal three figures. Flanked by two Blightspawn is none other than the Dark One himself.

"And so it begins," speaks the Regent. A staff materializes in his hand, and he holds it out to Alec Smith. "This is the Root of Insurrection. Its simple wood hides a Lucium core. Its magic is fatal to undead like me, or Blighted abominations like him. You will wield it as we agreed."

Alec nods, preparing his own assortment of arcane arms, wielded by the prehensile cloak and his own two hands.

Sandra unsheathes another prize from the depths of the vault, one of the five Telekinetic Blades, once wielded by the Dragonslayers of Kerodil. By its unique properties, and her enhanced nature, the blade's power is magnified to untold heights.

Smiley uses a weapon devised by Alec for "dispensing" her natural demonic poison, in addition to the lightning which dances about her.

With a wave of its hand, the Dark One evaporates Alec's barrier. The homunculi, slimes, and Blightspawn charge forth to do battle.

Regent's shadow shatters into shades, which materialize in front of the advancing group, hacking and slashing at the blight with reckless abandon.

The Dark One reacts to this by... unholstering a pistol?

"That gun... a Simmons prototype, it must be!" Alec calls out. "Brace yourself!"

Ordinary magic was out of reach of blight-casters, for the virulent substance consumed spells before they left the body. But through the gun, containing a fragment of Simmons' own soul, the Dark One wielded magic like a mortal mage. In a single blast of pure light, the shades are dissolved into nothingness, leaving the Dark One's forces intact and unhindered.

Alec levels the Root, unleashing a blast of energy. The nearest homunculi begin to melt like wax, flesh ripping off as if by a powerful gale. They continue to advance, albeit more slowly, as some begin dropping to the ground lifelessly.

The pair of Blightspawn leap over the ranks of their weak homunculi brethren with demonic roars, bringing their maces down in mighty arcs. Sandra steps in with her blade, swinging as hard as she can. The very air distorts, the vast chamber echoing with the sound of the impact. The blade cuts into the Stygian armor as no other weapon could, but stops halfway through one of the creature's arms. With a snort, it drives its boot into her sternum, audibly cracking ribs.

The other Blightspawn swings at the Regent, but stops short. The vampire's hand is around the head of the mace, crushing the metal between his fingers. He drives his other fist into its chest hard enough to send it flying backwards, bowling over its comrades and leaving its weapon behind. The Regent casts the demonic mace over the edge of the platform.

Smiley douses the blight creatures in venom from her weapon, which causes incapacitating pain even to the half-living beasts. The slimes, lacking any nerves, are unhindered and move in on her, set to envelop her in living blood. She responds with lightning, conducted easily through their forms, frying them thoroughly. She is interrupted, however, by a fireball shot from the Dark One's gun. In an explosion of flames, she's sent tumbling to the ground in a smoking heap. Her armor, yet another Simmons prototype pilfered from the vault, saves her life.

Sandra struggles to her feet, her bones cracking as they set themselves back into place. The Blightspawn laughs deeply, ripping the Telekinetic Blade from its arm and wielding it alongside its mace. Tendrils of blight creep over the sword's surface, threatening to corrupt it forever.

"That's not yours," she says to it, drawing Solarius, her arcane six-shooter. The blade violently unleashes a burst of force, leaving a stump where the Blightspawn's hand once was. Before it can recover, Sandra shoves Solarius into one of its helmet's eyeholes and fires. Light with the intensity of the sun floods the creature's armor, rendering much of its body to ash.

Regent, meanwhile, fights fisticuffs with the other Blightspawn. The vampire is faster and stronger, but few things could damage Stygian armor, and bare fists were not among them. Still, getting struck repeatedly began to anger the beast, and eventually it flew into a berserk rage, a wild blow hitting the Regent hard enough to knock him down.

"Thanks!" Alec quips as he fires the staff at it. The suit of Stygian armor collapses to the ground in a heap, the only thing that remains of the Blightspawn. The Regent gets to his feet, rubbing his sore jaw and licking off a spot of blood on his lip. "I haven't taken a hit like that in centuries. What sport."

Having obliterated most of the blight vermin, Alec focuses the staff's immense power on the blightcaster itself. The Dark One raises its hands as if to shield itself from the energy washing over it, yet its form remains alarmingly unscathed.

As the energy beam surges forth, Sandra notices the worm's body shifting once more. "The worm! He's still drawing from it!" Clouds of blighted flies emerge from their pupae inside the creature, washing over the group like a black tide. All is obscured, and tendrils of rotted flesh lash out at the group.

Alec's aim is thrown off, and the beam slices through the swarm on its way to the ceiling. Regent tugs on the collar of his cloak, and a hood forms to protect his face from the blight infection. With a quick incantation, Sandra envelops herself and Smiley in a shield of force, protected but pinned down.

"Time to switch things up!" Smiley says. She switches the tank on her gun from poison to kerosene. A spark of electricity and what is perhaps Aeria's first flamethrower is brought to life. "Lower the barrier!"

Sandra does so, and jets of flame envelop the clouds of mutated insects, some of which as large as birds. Combined with blasts from Alec's staff, the clouds of flies and rotting tendrils are eradicated, leaving the platform covered in charred, melted gore. The smell is foul beyond measure.

The Dark One is revealed once more, still clutching the gun in its hand. Seeing its minions dead, it crushes the weapon in apparent anger and flings it over the edge. Reaching into its robes, it removes what is presumably another of the vault's artifacts: a metallic mask of unknown origin.

"No!" Alec yells, apparently more distraught at the loss of the unique Simmons weapon than the harrowing battle. "Sandra... do you trust me?"

"Not a great time for this," she responds, eyes on the Dark One and its mask, readying sword and pistol. "But yes!"

"You have to hold him off until I get back. The staff isn't enough, we need that gun." Without any more words, Alec dives off the platform.

"Alec, wha- Alec!" Sandra turns back toward the Dark One as the mask disappears into its hood.

"That's one of the lost To'Mire masks," says the Regent. "The dragons used them to assume human forms. But of some, it was said that-..."

The Dark One roars, the shockwave knocking the group backwards. A column of muscle bursts out of its body, attached to the head of a dragon. A blight dragon.

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PostSubject: Re: A Legacy Forgotten   Sat Aug 26, 2017 5:41 pm

The dragon rears up, drawing a huge breath. It exhales a murky miasma of blight.

Sandra, the Regent, and Smiley shield themselves from the blast. Sandra erects a force barrier, while Regent hides behind the material of his cloak. Smiley's armor is enough to protect her from the virulent blight infestation.

The dragon walks towards them as it continues to sustain its deadly torrent. Sandra's shield weakens as blight sprouts on the invisible barrier and leeches the magic sustaining it. Regent's cloak is perforated by shards of bone mixed in with the gases, and on his face, blight begins to germinate and grow. He staggers backwards, covering his face with both hands. Smiley, meanwhile, succumbs to the sheer force of the blast, stumbling perilously close to the edge of the platform.

The blight-breath subsides as the dragon pounces on the group with teeth and claws. Sandra puts up another barrier, and the dragon's weight falls against another invisible wall. With a roar of rage, it rips down the barrier and slams into the ground, sending them all further backwards. The edge of the platform greets them. Nowhere to go.

Sandra hurriedly fires a blast with Solarius, only for the dragon's breath to squelch the beam. She raises the Telekinetic Blade, using it to shield herself against the blight. Smiley is dangling on the edge of the platform, with Regent struggling to hold his ground, looking as though he's caught in a hurricane.

"You have already lost," says a voice in their minds. "Those you sought to protect belong to Him now. As will you." The breath ceases momentarily, as new minions enter the chamber. Vampires, shuffling clumsily forward as blight consumes their bodies and minds.

"My children!" Regent cries in shock.

Terri and her father, Tyrion, enter slowly behind them. Sandra puts her hand to her face. Smiley emerges behind her, picking up her weapon.

"Don't fall fer it," says Alec, floating over the edge of the platform. "He can make copies. He's done it t'me before." There was no way to be certain, of course, but now wasn't the time for doubt. "So, Darko- can I call ya Darko? Ya've caused a lotta death, ruined a lotta shit... what was the point'a all this? What're tryin' to achieve?"

The blight dragon snorts, glancing at Alec with a rheumy eye. "Absolution," its psychic voice utters.

Alec stares back. "That's some fucked up logic. From where I'm standin', the only thing down 'ere is death. From my hand, or from that thing y'seek. There's a power down 'ere that ain't meant t' be wielded. Reckon it'll destroy anyone that tries."

"Yes. Death."

"The hell's that supposed to-"

The dragon roars once more, preparing another blast of blight. Its vampiric servants charge ahead with all the speed and strength afforded their kind. Terri and Tyrion charge with them.

The Regent lays into what may well be his own children, each blow dealing him as much pain as them. His strength and speed are beyond theirs, and refined by ages of experience. They stand no chance.

Sandra cuts through the vampiric ranks, attempting to strike at the dragon directly before it can repel her again.

Smiley opens her weapon's fuel tank, tilting a vial over the aperture. A single tear dissolves into the poison contained within.

The dragon breathes this time at Alec, momentarily ignoring all else in its drive to end the gunman's life. Alec barely erects a shield in time, dropping to the platform, underneath the blast. He points the prototype at the Blight Dragon, a deadly spell manifesting in his mind, entering reality through the gun... and fizzling harmlessly. The gun is broken. He had risked everyone's life for nothing.

The Telekinetic Blade lodges itself firmly in the dragon's bone, nearly severing its foreleg. The dragon's colossal form loses its footing, falling onto her.

Alarmed, Smiley sprays a blast from her gun. The moment the fluid impacts the dragon, everything changes. Its entire form ripples from the impact point like a pond disturbed by a rock. It lets out an unearthly cry, incapacitated for the time being.

Alec's jaw sets in determination. He draws his final ace in the hole, pointing the shotgun at the dragon. "I didn' wanna use this on you, believe it'r not. But I can't make ya understand... death doesn' give absolution. Sacrifice does. Someone's gotta be around t'stop things like you." He pulls the trigger. Fragments of metanite fill the air, blurring space around them as they wound reality itself. They impact the blight dragon, rending its mutilated soul to dying pieces. Its face turns a ghostly white, cracking off in flakes. The To'Mire mask is destroyed, the dragon along with it. Its massive form is reduced to a mountain of ashes.

The ashes stir as a figure emerges from them.

"Sandra!" cries Smiley.

Alec lowers his shotgun, shaking his head at the pile of ashes. "Shoulda known ya'd pull through."

"Honestly, it could have gone either way. Thanks for the save," Sandra says.

The Regent ponders his bloodied hands. "This is no victory."

The ashes shift as Sandra wades through them. A shape remains firm as the dust falls away.

"What's that?" Smiley asks, pointing at the shape. Alec's gaze follows her finger. And suddenly it all made sense.

She could hear the cries of her comrades, see the terror on their faces, but it all seemed blurry and distant. She was holding the locket. Myra's locket.

Her hand was glowing. It was not the locket, or some magic spell, but the vibrant fluid that coursed through her. Her blood. It was everywhere.

She was being pulled away. To her amazement, it wasn't Alec or Smiley. It was the Regent.


"Descend into the Well! I'll buy you as much time as I can!" The elder vampire approaches the ashen figure, fists raised.

"But what about-" Smiley says, as she reaches to pick Sandra up.

"You can't always be the hero," Regent says. "Shar must have known this would happen," he continues, facing his foe. "She sent us all to die so that you would succeed. Don't waste it."

The figure lunges at the vampire. He dodges, his fist connecting with the back of its head. No reaction. The figure spins about and a bladed arm catches him in the side. He grabs it and tries to hold it, but his grip falters. A black corruption spreads through his hands, the flesh sloughing off from the bone. The Regent continues fighting.

Alec and Smiley, both supporting Sandra, rush to the end of the platform, where an obscured walkway enters into view. It winds downward as far as the eye can see into the great pit, aptly named the Well of Infinity.

The Regent screams somewhere behind him. The figure is already on the move, gaining on them with alarming speed.

"Take Sandra," Alec says to Smiley. "I've gotta hold 'im off."

"But Alec-"

"Tha's an order."

"I'm not bound to you any more, Alec. Maybe it's cause of my new body, or maybe it's cause I'm changing. But yeah, I'm not goin' anywhere."

"Damn it, now's not th'time fer ya t'get yer humanity-"

"Do I not get a vote in this?" Sandra blinks a few times, getting her bearings.

"Too late to decide now!" Smiley says. The figure is upon them.

Alec reflexively draws Spitfire, but the arcane firearm does nothing. "Dorifium..." he mutters in shock.

Dorifium and Blight were not so very different. Both parasitic, both hungry, both forms of life. Dorifium could only be found in the deepest, darkest corners of the subterranean, and it was pure poison to anyone who dabbled with it. With bizarre, malign intent, it found its way here, having ridden in the heart of a Blightcaster, that it might strike at the heart of the world.

Sandra rallies her strength, raising the Telekinetic Blade to strike at the abomination before them. In the same instant, it strikes back. Neither Sandra's many barriers, nor the blade she wields, provide any obstacle. It cuts through her as it would air.

Smiley fires what remains of her poison at it, but the substance dissolves on the figure's skin. It releases Sandra from its grip, turning to face the gunman. Two eyes blaze like dying embers into those of Alec Smith. Sandra is dead, her luminescent blood still dribbling from its claws. The glow fades as the substance is emptied of all energy. Made lifeless.

The trial flashed through Alec's mind. That same feeling of despair. He had failed everyone. And now he was going to die.

Trial. Vintar. Vintar's shield. He had no options left. He pulled the wooden kite shield from out of his cloak, holding it up defensively. It was absurd, but it felt right to die this way. Holding onto something.


Smiley covers her eyes as the monster deals Alec a deathblow. A massive shockwave erupts in the chamber. The shield explodes into splinters. The figure is still for a moment, posed in its attack, and then collapses into dust.

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PostSubject: Re: A Legacy Forgotten   Mon Oct 09, 2017 4:22 pm

An Arcane Tempest thunders loudly, orbs of lightning floating upwards. They transform into vortices, which recede into the maelstrom of energy as the entire Tempest is thrust into reverse. Smiley kneels by where Alec has fallen, taking her busted helmet off. "...I'm sorry," she says, offering her hand.

Alec stared up at Smiley. Why? No... He shook his head. "I ain't-.. g-gonna believe that... Don't save me.. jus' cause yer bound t' me, s-Smiley... I'm lettin' ya go. Yer... free now..." Small tremors were audible in his voice. Yet, that was enough. Smiley's will was unbound from Alec's own.

Smiley reaches down, grabbing hold of him and hoisting him up. He's pretty damn heavy given the small armory in his cloak, but she's stronger than she looks. "Don't be silly, Alec. I chose to be bound to you, remember? Because I wanted to learn from you. I want to keep learning from you. And, well, we're not really done down here yet, are we? We gotta finish this... for her."

Alec.. is pulled up? Even he is surprised. When did Smiley become this strong, exactly? The gunman topples over back onto the walkway, staring at the solid surface, panting to himself. He looked at Smiley, and was again surprised by her humanity. He got to his feet and stared at her. "...Alright... yer right." Alec slowly surveyed the damage. Himself, Smiley... everyone else... Sandra.

Regent is nearly bisected, his cloak the only thing holding his body together. There is nothing left of the shades other than faint outlines on the walkway. Sandra lies supine near where her killer started to dissolve. Her expertly crafted armor is a ruin, and what remains of her blood glows brightly before dissolving away, fading forever. Though her expression is peaceful, what's below is stomach-churning.

Alec grit his teeth. He approached the corpses, but then halted, and looked to Smiley. "...Smiley.. Yer an agonizer... do ya know any magic fer preservin' a corpse?" He weakly gestured to their fallen allies. "I don' wan'a give up on 'em jus' yet, but there ain't a lot'a time t' work with... If y'don't, we got'a freeze 'em."

Smiley removes her helmet, letting it fall to the ground. The thing is shattered and torn open, useless and damaged beyond repair. She looks at her former comrades with a neutral expression. "No, I don't, really. Freezing will keep 'em, eh... preserved, but won't it also do more damage?"

Regent's cloak stirs, sliding off of him like a liquid. It pools in the center of the walkway, and slowly rises into a vaguely humanoid figure.

Alec exhaled and spoke with a measure of defeat in his tone. "What damage... they're dead. Can't get any worse n' dead." He halted over Sandra's form and aimed the prototype now embedded into his suit, but Regent's cloak draws the gunman's attention. "...the... hell?" He'd stare at it, uncertain of what to make of the transformation. "...Regent?"

"No," replies the cloak. It has no mouth, but words emanate from its 'head' in toneless whispers. "Only his shadow." It turns towards its fallen master, hanging its head mournfully.

Alec stares at the Regent's cloak briefly. He returns his attention to Sandra, doing his best to keep his eyes away from her gruesome wound. Then, his arm hung limply. Frozen or not, it wouldn't matter what he did if nothing he could do could restore her life but the power of life itself. Then, as though pondering a possibility, Alec retrieved from the glowing form of the Lightstone from the depths of his suit. He stared at it. Well, even with this much power at his disposal, it was no good without knowing how to restore one to life. "...Hey, Shadow. You a Shade?"

The shadow, without turning, bows its head.

Alec looks to the shadow. "...I got a request for ya. If it works, I might be able t' revive yer master. If it don't..." Alec looks down at the lightstone, "..then I'll jus' hand this to ya n' call it quits." Alec paused to aim the prototype at Sandra's form. He fires a gentle ray of frost, a cantrip, and builds a frosty layer over her to slow her body's decay. "There's a lyre that I'd like ya t' retrieve. It's among the set'a idols made in the image'a each'a Kerodil's gods. It's upstairs on one'a the firs' ten floors'a the vault. Find it, n' bring it t' me, if y'wan'a save yer master."


The shadow turns in one fluid motion. "My master is beyond salvation."

Alec appears enraged by the response, but the heat is tempered by his weakness. The gunman's stubbornness struggles to remain firm. "Look, don' tell me what is n' ain't possible, jus' go get the damn lyre, would ya? I ain't gon'a stand at the heart'a the fuckin' world, surrounded by every gods-damned artifact there was, n' pretend there's nothin' we can do. Now, either ya help me try n' bring 'em back, or I'm gonna do it by m'self."

"I will help you, to honor my master's agreement, but the Regent is no more. He would not abandon his children in death." The shadow walks toward the mangled vault door, and fades away.

Smiley moves up beside Alec. "So, uh... what's your plan?"

Alec looks at Smiley. He bows his head. "...Don' know. I'm hopin' between Sandra.. the memories'a the cloak, n' the power'a the lighstone... the lyre'll inspire knowledge in me, a spell'a resurrection, or somethin'. The lighstone's got the power t' do it... I jus' need the knowledge."

He'd pat Smiley's shoulder and give it a firm grasp. "By the way... thanks. If ya didn' help me up back there, I think... I would'a finally quit on livin'." Alec would release her shoulder and approach the center of the cavern, to see what object it was that this grand conflict had been over.

Smiley nods. "Don't mention it."

The orb seems to be affixed to a walk far below where Alec is standing, accessible via a ramp that spirals down the perimeter of the cylindrical chamber. Its smooth, glossy appearance betrays nothing of its purpose.

Smiley joins Alec in pondering the orb. "...Do you believe what Regent said about the lightstone? Y'know, it being people's souls, and all?"

Alec nods as he descends the ramp. "...Yeah, sure do. Ain't any reason t' lie 'bout it... Didn' wan'a use it 'gainst the Blight 'cause'a that reason. But... I don' wan'a let Sandra die. Unless I can think'a somethin' better, I ain't got a better option."

Smiley's armored boots plink metallically on the ramp. Its texture is rougher than the horizontal walkways, for better traction. "So... you can heal her body, but then you gotta get her soul... 'cause otherwise it'll just be someone who looks like her. Someone like me. I wonder where Prometheans end up when they die..."

Alec nods. "That's what the lyre's for. I can fix 'er body already, a'reckon. But I ain't got any business messin' with souls outside'a their bodies... don' know, m'self. But... she believed in Myra... maybe Sandra'd be with 'er." He'd peer over the side and watch them steadily get closer to the orb. "...Smiley, y'got any idea what this thing's supposed t'be?"

"Sandra called it the Infinity Conduit. My old master heard of it, too, but never told us much. And, according to that little warning, it's the heart of a god. Anyways, guess I don't have any idea what it is, but... I don't think it's that orb. I don't see anything when I look at it. I think the orb's just... holding it in, whatever it is. Like a big container."

Alec nodded slowly. "Figures... well, guess we'll figure out what we're dealin' with soon." He looked down into the pit, eyeing the bottom of the abyss. Seems he'd been mistaken. Though, why would such a pit be necessary? Was it all for the contents of the orb? Alec quickened his pace, his fatigued body rushing to meet the cause of all their struggle. He would halt once he came before the orb and look for any obvious mechanism keeping it shut, or some form of instructions.

Beneath the walkway leading up to the orb, Arcane Tempests and unearthly cries fill the air. The spiral ramp leads down and down, beneath even the furthest reaches of the Underdark. It is an exhausting journey, compounded by the recent battle. At last, the two survivors find themselves before the object for which so much blood has been spilled across the ages. The orb, upon their approach, begins to ripple, much like the door entity. A mind, vast in its age and knowledge, reaches out to touch Alec's.

Alec had a feeling it might be something like this. The death of Sandra left him far more submissive to judgement, however. He didn't struggle against this force, but instead, reached out to touch the orb and provide it direct access. "...Yeah, fine..."

The great orb probes Alec's thoughts and memories, feels his pain and exhaustion. Unlike the door entity, this mind is huge, an ocean that seems to drag Alec's own sense of self beneath the tide. For the briefest of moments, Alec is lost within the depth of the orb. And then something shakes his shoulder. "Alec... are you okay?" A familiar voice. Smiley. His awareness returns as the tide recedes. The orb begins to drain away, shrinking in size.

He awakens from a trance. "Wha-... yeah," Alec responded on instinct more than thought. "Yeah... yeah, fine." He set his hand on Smiley's. "Fine..." Alec reflected little on the experience. Too much to think about. Now wasn't the time. He focused his gaze on the draining orb, awaiting its contents. "...Jus' hope... this was all worth it."

The orb's surface begins to show lumps at regular intervals throughout. As more of the substance drains away, the lumps are all that remains of the orb. Behind the surface, a bright light gleams, the raw energy almost overwhelming in its intensity. The air grows hot, and obsidian tendrils can be seen carrying the rest of the orb inwards, into a massive golem of unknown make. The golem is humanoid, nearly ten feet tall, and made of a gleaming, translucent metal. The obsidian fluid enters many joints and small apertures throughout its body, and veins can be seen filling up as the golem's circulatory system springs to life. It is both living and nonliving, both mechanical and spiritual. It stands in front of the source of the glow, blocking it from view. So bright is it that the golem almost appears a silhouette.

Alec scrunches his eyes behind his visor. The visor darkens in response until there is no need to strain his eyes. "...Jus'.. layer after layer..." The human shook his head. "...Le'me go out on a limb 'ere n' guess... Yer not Tairne Welfyr, are ya?"

"More," the golem answers in the common tongue. Its voice rings out clear and metallic, imposingly deep. "Alec Smith, monster hunter. Xithok, colloquially 'Smiley.'" The golem turns to each person as he addresses them. "Why are you here?"

Alec's exasperation was beginning to reach its upper limits. "..That's what I'd like t' ask you, ya piece'a junk. Everyone n' their uncle called us t' come n' defend that firecracker behind ya. The hell is it? Was there any need?" He gestures to the golem. "With a damned monster like you guardin' it, what were we here fer?..." He calmed and pointed at the golem. "...The people incharge'a me told me that thing b'hind ya is too dangerous, n' it needs t' be put away fer good... But I don' know what it is... n' I ain't sure what I wan'a do anymore... I need answers. From you, a'reckon."

The machine is silent for a few moments. It then speaks, "You know the name Tairne Welfyr. But do you know the man? Centuries ago, he lived in the lands above us. He was an inventor, a thinker, Vintar's most trusted advisor. He built the walls of the fortress, designed the armor of the knight order, and created the uppermost levels of this vault. None of it was enough for him. He spent his life searching for the ultimate discovery, while his empire crumbled around him. As his death approached, it seemed as though his creations would die with him. A kind of madness took him, as the end of life stretched out before him. And then... he finally found it. The very last work of Tairne Welfyr."

"It was not finished until long past Welfyr's death. I was made, in part, to oversee the final stages of its construction. Many sacrifices were made, but at long last, I, its sole surviving architect, saw success. The Conduit... a door to the very fabric of creation. The power of a god. Of THE God." The machine goes quiet once more, letting its speech sink in. Eventually, it adds, "But I quickly realized it had to be buried. Others seek to control it, to reshape all of creation for their own gain. Still others would corrupt or destroy it entirely." As the golem utters this, it looks squarely at Alec.

Alec stares at the golem. He observes the shining light behind him. It began to make sense, but he couldn't help but laugh a little. "Jus' one question, then... if nobody's ever been allowed t' use it.. how d'ya know it works?"

"It works," the golem answers solemnly. "But there is another reason it must be so carefully guarded. The conduit can flood a desert, but in doing so, robs a land of its water. It can bring great wealth and prosperity, but the suffering of others will increase proportionally. The machine's limitation is that it can not alter the balance of creation. It is not truly the heart of Ao, but a pale imitation. Tairne's one and only wish was to live forever. And so he does, somewhere inside this consciousness. And until the Sphere shatters, the conduit will preserve some part of him. But he has not defied death. Tairne Welfyr does not think, nor feel, nor live. He persists only as part of a larger whole."

Alec looked down into the pit, and stared at the golem again. "So, if it were destroyed, he'd die... n' if'a use it t' make a wish, somebody somewhere's gonna pay fer that wish." He stared vacantly ahead. "...A'right. Can't say this changes much... somethin' like that ain't meant t' exist. N' by buildin' it, you-.. Tairne.. cursed a whole continent t' suffer. People've died over somethin' that... frankly... wasn' worth dyin' over." Alec holds out the Lightstone to the golem. "...Firs' things first. Return the energy in this stone t' Aeria. N' if it's willin' t' grant some in return.. I'd like this thing t' be filled with power that doesn' come from anyone's lives."

The golem accepts the lightstone, holding it gently in its massive hand. As it channels energy, it continues speaking to Alec. "I have had centuries to ponder the consequences. The Inferian Rift, the many wars fought for Durender, the trail of bodies and the whims of numerous gods and their daemonic counterparts... but it is not within my power to destroy the conduit. I am bound to be its guardian, and so I can not harm it. The danger should the wrong party take possession of it is obvious... it will grant tremendous power at the expense of others, the ultimate form of selfish gain. Tairne did not realize this until it was far too late." The stone grows dull as the last of the magic and psychic energy is released.

Alec watches his hope of reviving Sandra dwindle out of the stone. He was so intent to restore her, and yet he couldn't fight his instinct. "...Well... That's how it goes. So, a'reckon I know the answer t' this one. But what would it take t' bring someone back t' life?" Alec looked at the golem.

"The answer is not always the same," the golem replies, giving Alec back the emptied lightstone. "Upon death, the soul may go to any number of places. Some go to many places at once, others linger in the material world. The World Storm claims those with nowhere to go, to be destroyed and remade anew. This is the way of things, and defying it rarely comes without great cost."

Alec looks up above the platform. "...I wan'a revive Sandra. She's layin' up there. Her body is, anyway. Don't know anythin' about where she's gone... but it sounds t'me that bringin' her back t' life is gonna cost me somethin' fierce."

"Sandra's people and this device have more in common than you will ever know. Her soul, mutilated as it is, will likely be discarded, left to drift until it finds its way into the World Storm, from whence there is no return. To maintain balance, another must take its place."

Alec seemed to chuckle at the answer. "...Yeah. Figured s'much." Alec held his hand out to the golem, awaiting the emptied Lightstone. "Fine. Guess a'know where this is all leadin'... No one'll get robbed'a anythin' if I jus' give mine in exchange, right?"

The golem motions to answer, but Smiley steps up to it. "No way you're lettin' him do that." Smiley turns to look at Alec. "After all the pain he's been through, he should get to keep living with his friends. Not just... erased."

Alec's yes widened at her sudden defense. He reaches forward to pull the woman back! "Easy there, Smiley. I ain't givin' mine up jus' yet. I'm jus' askin'." Admittedly, he had it in mind, but Smiley convinced him otherwise again. "...Sorry. Fine... Regent's shadow is probably on 'is way back... so, one las' question for ya, golem." He stared the creature down. "Truth be told, I ain't interested in pale imitations. Hate 'em. But the imitator mus' know 'bout the real deal, so tell me what I got'a do t' make a request t' the real thing."

"One does not make requests of Ao. In the mind of the creator of all things, your request has already been made, and the decision on whether to grant it can not be changed. It may be that this sacrifice which is demanded is the answer to your question. Perhaps those who sent you here may know more."

Alec stared at the golem. "Can'ts n' won'ts. If's n' maybe's... got it. I heard enough... guess there's no changin' what I came 'ere t'do. If I give up my life t' revive 'er, then I won't be around t' destroy the Conduit..." Alec was silent in his ponderings, staring vacantly at nothing. "...Guess m'life ain't my own t' give, either... Not after all that... Toss it, golem. Toss the conduit down the pit. Return the right t' creation t' the creator. Even if a'made a wish on those grounds, it'd jus' be theft... ain't no wonder every wish is cursed..." Alec crossed his arms, perhaps to restrain himself more than anything else.

Regent's shadow reappears before the golem. Its voice rings out louder than ever, like many whispers in unison, and faint traces of a male voice that sounds very similar to Regent's. "No. You must not destroy the conduit!"

Alec snaps to attention and eyes the shadow. "What're ya on about? This's the end'a the world in the makin', 'course we got'a destroy it."

"You do not understand," the shadow implores. "This conduit could end the world, but it could also save it."

Alec scoffs. "Save it? From -what-? Look at all the savin' it's done 'til now! N' whatever it saves, there'll always be a price; somethin' given, somethin' takin'. What's this gonna save us from with a price like that?"

"The end of all things. The shattering of the Sphere. My queen foresaw it, and so enacted her plan. She must be allowed to continue, or we will all be doomed. The power of the conduit will make this possible."

Alec eyes the shadow closely. He narrows his gaze upon it and turns to look at Smiley. "...Smiley, is it tellin' the truth?"

"...Well, it believes it is, at any rate. But it's Regent's servant, and Regent was Shar's servant, so eh... maybe take what it says with a grain'a salt?"

"I am familiar with Shar's plan," speaks the golem. "Centuries ago, she sought to reshape the world as she deemed fit. Any who stood in her path were killed or enslaved."

"Extreme measures, yes," the shadow agrees, "but necessary ones. The Sphere must unite to survive, must become of one purpose, one will... or else it won't survive the Abyss."

Alec eyes the shadow. He sighs. "...A'right. Fine." He turns back to the golem. "Tell me somethin'. You were a sphere earlier, guardin' the Condui'. If ya entered the.. that place down there while in that form, would ya be able t' withstand?"

"For a time," the golem answers. "But none can survive forever. Nor would I emerge entirely the same."

"Sure, fair 'nough. How long?"

"I do not know. I have never done so. Why do you ask this?"

"Because I ain't gonna leave that thing t' sit around here while we wait fer somebody else t' come down 'ere n' take it. There's an army'a demons rampagin' Kerodil, n' a'reckon there'll be even more things comin' in the future. N' a'don't care -what- Shar's plan is, 'good intentions' aside, I ain't gonna leave the Condui' layin' around in her hands, either. There's only one place where nobody'll reach it 'cept the right hands, n' that's," Alec points down to his feet, "down there w' the big ligh'show."

"This, I can do," the golem speaks. "For as long as I am able, I am tasked to protect the Conduit. Since this place has been breached, the only remaining course of action is to move it further down. But I am left with one question - when the storms kill me, what becomes of the Conduit, without me to protect it?"

Alec sighs. "...Don' know. Jus' hopin'-" Alec is interrupted by another set of footsteps.

An inferian guard steps down the spiral staircase, or so it would appear. "I believe it would become our responsibility, then. All things surrendered to fate are our responsibility." As he stepped down, his form shifted from an Inferial royal guard to a knight of Durender, emulating the appearance of their century-old tolerum armor to perfection. "If this is the choice made by mortalkind, we will handle it accordingly."

"And why should I trust you?" the golem asks of the Number, seeing through its disguise.

"Your trust is irrelevant. We do our duty, regardless of what is expected of us. But," the Number expresses some exhasperation, "If it will appease you, I give you the word of a knight of Durender. I am Number 99, and I have been serving in the oversight and protection of the Vault and its contents since the time of Lady Eleanor Duvedirfel. I have protected her and her charge in the absence of my master, by his command. I will continue to do so."

Alec stared at the conversation between the two.. construct-like beings. He exchanged glances with Smiley.

"If this is true, then I would be obliged to accept your word, and yours alone, that you will guard the Conduit and not exploit it. I would ask for verification, however." The golem outstretches its hand, and a web of tendrils grows out of its body.

The Number approaches the golem, stepping by the pair of adventurers. "Mr. Smith. ...Smiley." He excused himself and drew near to the golem, offering a gauntlet-covered hand in the process. In this form, like the last, he was the very definition of a nondescript knight.

The golem links with the Number, communing more honestly and efficiently than words could ever achieve. It impresses upon 99 the absolute importance of the Conduit and its protection from the unworthy, which is why it must question everyone, even 99 and his kin. The golem will allow the Number to become the new guardian of the Conduit should he fall, but under one condition: that he bind himself to its protection in exactly the same way. Should he accept, he will be unable to forsake his duty for any reason, unable to turn the Conduit over to any authority except those who are worthy to use it or safeguard it, and unable to alter any of these conditions under any circumstances, ever.

The agreement comes swiftly, falling in line the Number's century-old duties. In the moment of silent communication, 99 seems to express only an honest and dutiful obedience and loyalty to his cause, as though it had been a part of him since his creation. When the golem is satisfied, the Number would prepare to withdraw his hand.

The golem makes the necessary alterations to Number 99's essence, and relinquishes the link. It turns to Alec. "I will do what must be done, as I always have. But before I go, I have one final request. The knowledge I contain is of great value, and could one day benefit the world above. Allow me to preserve a portion of myself, that it may avoid destruction."

Alec stares at the golem. He looks around. "How the hell're ya gonna- Oh, wait a minute. A'know. Try this." He'd extend his arm out to the golem, the material of the cloak becoming slick and malleable for it to link with easily. "Don' know if this'll be enough, but a'know it's preserved a lot'a memories b'fore."

99 interjects. "It will be enough. The N2 substance may be a step down from my own composition, but it can easily accomodate the same abilities, including the storage of information and personas." The 'knight' bows its head toward the golem. "You will be well-preserved. And should the cloak be damaged or destroyed, the Way Matrix will take on the burden of preserving your knowledge."

The golem raises its hand, palm facing out, signalling a halt. "I offer more than merely the information. As I said, a portion of myself." Black liquid trickles from the golem's hand, far slower than the tendrils from before. The golem's voice grows faint and strained, as though it is concentrating. "I suspect you will need it, Alec Smith."

Alec stares in bewilderment. "Wait.. wh-.. what'm I s'pose t'do with that?"

99 watches the golem transfer a portion of its essence to the gunman. It observes Alec closely for his reaction, as well.

"There is another uniquely suited to carrying this piece of myself. She rests at the top of this chamber." More of the fluid flows of the golem's hand as it speaks. "Even with her soul, her body has no vitae left. I grant her a more stable form."

Alec trembles briefly at the golem's words. Quickly, he searches himself for some form of container, but his suit is void of such at this point.

Luckily, the Number beside him offers him a metal bowl. "I suspected you might need this. Mr. Smith."

Alec snatches it from his hands and holds the bowl before the golem as the fluid pours out. "Thanks- sorry. Righ'." He holds it before the golem. "I- wha'do I do? I jus' take it up t' her n'.. then what?"

"That is all you must do. Since I am fated to die within the World Storm, the balance will be maintained by her return. The Conduit can do that much."

"This is unacceptable," the shadow says. "...But Shar has done all she can. One of her eldest sons and all his kin are gone from this world. Make my death quick, if you would."

"Hey, wait," Smiley says, opening her big mouth at last. "You oughtta know where Terri an' her father is- are-... right? How 'bout before you die you go an' fetch them outta wherever and... whatever."

Alec nodded quickly to the golem. "Righ'... tha'... yeah. Listen... Sorry fer makin' you do this." Alec accepted the black substance. He looked to the shadow after Smiley spoke to it and retrieved the lightstone with a hand. "...Here. Reckon ya better return this t' Shar... n' thank ya fer her help, too."

The shade takes the lightstone in its hand. "Do not patronize me. I will honor my master's agreement with you, and then I will embrace my death." It reaches inside itself, withdrawing a familiar lyre. "You asked for this."

Alec accepted the lyre. "Yeah... thanks." He took the lyre and returned his attention to the golem. "Are ya finished? Should'a head up now?"

"Yes. It is done," the golem says. It turns to the Number. "I will keep the Conduit safe for as long as I am able. It may take days, or eons, but my death will come. Then the task falls to you and whomever you choose as successor." The golem speaks no more as the Truminum leaves its body, encircling the glowing Conduit. The solid orb extends long tendrils that carry it down the shaft, towards the blinding light at the very bottom.

The shade watches this, and then leaves without a trace. Only Smiley, Number 99, and Alec are left standing on a now-empty platform, facing an empty shell that was once a mighty construct.

99 stands at the  base of the tendrils and watches the golem lower itself into the platform. As the golem reaches the bottom, 99 murmurs, "I suspect your role in the machinations of this plan will be revealed sooner than you think, friend." Slowly, the Number turns to face Alec and Smiley. "I will come with you to watch over the revival of the Promethean, but I will not interfere. The motion of events is still set in your palm for the time being, Mr. Smith."

Alec stared at the Number for a moment, and replied half-heartedly, "Don' call me 'mister,' I ain't my Pa'. C'mon, Smiley." He started heading up the staircase.

Smiley follows behind him up the long, spiralling ramp. Thunderous sounds echo from below. Another Tempest.

Alec would silently continue up. The pair were trailled by 99. It would be a long, silent journey back up, unless Smiley felt like contributing. Once at the top, Alec slowly approached the frosted Sandra and watched her for a moment, looking between the bowl in one hand, and the lyre in his other.

Sandra has not moved, though Regent's body is gone. The carcasses of the blight monstrosities are strewn about, some still wriggling vile appendages.

Alec sets the bowl of the golem's essence down. He lifts the lyre to play, but finds himself bothered by the Blight remains. Alec aims the prototype at them, but 99 raises a hand to halt him.

"Please, allow me." 99 tips Alec's arm down and approaches the Blight-remains. Rather than a spectacular show of force, 99 squashes the remains as though they are bugs. The magic that is loosed from them in the process is drained into his form, preserving it before it can be burned away by the Blight.

Alec watched the sight, a little disturbed, but he quickly returned to his task. Not knowing exactly what he wanted, Alec simply thought about reviving Sandra, and the many ways he could approach it, as he began to play the lyre for inspiration.

The lyre rings out clear and true, but unfortunately, it yields no inspiration, instead behaving more like a typical lyre.

"Any luck?" Smiley asks.

Alec sighs with some disappointment. "..Nothin'. Jus' strummin' it. Reckon' I gotta be more specific... Wait, ya mentioned returnin' her soul earlier. That's the only thing I'm missin', maybe I ought'a focus on that..." Alec ceased to play. He thought about all he'd seen thus far, his experiences with manipulating the sacred fields of many creatures, and the bits of knowlege that seemed to come up out of nowhere. "..A'right... gonna try again. Guess if this doesn' work, we're wingin' it." He exhaled and began to play the lyre, letting his fingers find their own inspiration, and wished for some manner of magic or spell that might return Sandra her soul as he played.

Alec plays his baby gunman heart out, but to no avail. The fickle lyre is not offering any gifts. Alec is on his own.

His fingers moved for a time, but it became apparent he had to do this the hard way. With a sigh, he set the lyre down. "...So much fer that." Kneeling beside Sandra's form, Alec shyed his eyes from her visage. He picked up the bowl of the golem's essence. "Guess we're startin' with this." He looked over her form and wondered where it out to go. Then, he recalled that she seemed to be able to control her 'blood', so its distribution was probably uniform. The gunman molded a portion of the cloak off the side of his armor into a pouch, to which he poured the golem's essence into. This pouch was then reshaped again into the image of a syringe.

Alec looked over Sandra's body. He decided to choose someplace close to her center, where a human's heart would be. The tear in her armor allowed this, and he inserted the syringe to the appropriate depth before injecting the essence directly into her.

As Alec predicted, the essence slowly fills her ciculatory system, replacing the (now ruined) liquid cordonium. Traces of the glowing substance are forced out to make room for the newer, more stable fluid. Amazingly, Sandra's body begins to heal. But it is still without a soul; even the fragment within the Truminum can not replace hers.

Alec plucked loose the syringe. He stared at the healing body. For a moment, he felt an inkling of something, like this process was familiar somehow... No, nevermind. He still needed to return her soul. According to what the golem had said, she would end up returning to Aeria, to be destroyed and remade, so every moment he lingered reduced his chance of success. What, then? Was he to try anything?

Alec looked at Smiley, narrowing his gaze upon her and pondering how her soul occupied that body. No, regardless of how he looked at it, resurrections were not studied in arcane magic. They were a healing art and associated with the divines, the gods. Alec was a knight of Durender now, but he had no divines of his own. No, wait. Maybe there was one. He pondered the golem's words, rising to his feet. Maybe it was really that simple.

"Either it works, or it don't..." Alec looked down into the pit- No, he looked up- no, it didn't really matter where he looked, did it? He shut his eyes and spoke. "Look. I ain't really good at this." He seemed to be speaking to no one. "I ain't got anythin' t' offer t' someone that's got everythin'. But I got a wish I wan'a make. If it costs me, I accept, jus' hear me out... uh... Ao," he said, repeating the term the golem had used. "I wish fer Sandra's soul t'be returned to 'er body." Alec stood there, talking to himself, hoping he would be heard.

Alec's words fade into the cavernous chamber, as wind swirls and subterranean storms rage. Sandra's body is still. No response, it seems.

Alec stands around, feeling stupid. He peeks open his eyes and looks around, and feels even more stupid. "Feels like I'm gettin' jerked around again."

99 returned to the scene after he had removed the last of the Blight and left their remains to decay. "You are an interesting man, Mr. Smith. But your stubborness seems to be your downfall."

"Shut up," Alec snapped back. "Yer jus' standin' there doin' nothin'. Are ya tellin' me that after all -that-, it's still up t' me? You could pull 'er out'a there in a second, couldn'cha?"

"That decision is not mine to make. There must be order and authority in Aeria that transcends power and opportunity, Mr. Smith. You know this. This is the foundation of morality, correctness, and purpose." 99 pauses to tilt his head slowly at the gunman. "Yet I find in you a quality similar to the late Lady Duvedirfel. Indeed, her stubborn beliefs were also once her downfall until my master dismissed those illusions." He paused for a moment. "...Then, on the grounds that we are fellow knights, I shall offer you an exercise in willpower. True will is not solely desire. It is to know. It is to know, and to know that you know. A self confirmation, an existence that is impossible unless it is perfect. It seems that you possess, to some degree, this ability to know. But you don't appear to recognize it, and it is in your knowing itself that you know you aren't capable of this task. But that would make you a hypocrite, Mr. Smith. If indeed you know He listens, and you know He can give, and you know further still that the balance is maintained... then you must also know that you do not need to ask for anything. What you desire must already be yours. To know that you cannot... that is a delusion you have oppressed yourself with."

Alec listened to the Number with a tempered frustration. But his words were piercing. Confusing, certainly, but piercing. He was left in silence.

"Wow," Smiley says. "Knowing you know you know... something something? I dunno what any of it means, but sure sounds important, or whatever."

"A'right... say yer right. Say that's all true. Then, why can't-... we can't jus'... 'know' our way out'a things due t' order n' authority?" Alec observed the Number.

"That didn't take long. Correct, it is inborn, innate. Where, how, and to whom this authority is then given, where it changes, is unknowable before it occurs, for such things are governed by fate and no other. But when it does occur, it observable, confirmable, and for the sons and daughters of Durender, fate has been with them for eons, but few to the degree you have exercised Mr. Smith."

99 continued to speak as he approached the site where Alec could have fallen perilously to his death, and stood where the Dark One had crumbled. "That terrifying quality, the favor of fate itself, has been expressed in you since your birth, and you have suppressed it within a modest view of your own existence. Despite that, you have always known and followed the rightness and order of things. How is that possible, for one born blank and grey to know the absolutes?"

"But I digress. There is much to learn, but my authority only grants me that you understand your own will. Now that you know, do what you must; what you have given your word to do. You know that you have no other choice."

"Yer gettin' really annoyin' with that 'know, know' garbage... Jus' shut up, I'm tryin' t' focus." Alec knelt before Sandra's healing body. He shed himself of his armor, the suit coming apart at seams and acting as individual pieces again. Alec removed the helmet, exposed at last to the intense environment of the cavern. With bare hands, he clutched Sandra's body. "Fine, okay." He looked at the Number. He was standing where the dorifium had been. Alec remembered, that moment of intense pain and sorrow, where all he knew was that the Dark One had to be stopped. Holding Sandra's form closely, he shut his eyes and closed off his senses. He coaxed out that same pain and sorrow, which shed him of everything else. All he knew was that he had to bring Sandra back.

Alec stretched out his will into places he could not see or sense, through the stretches of Aeria's weave. He desired Sandra's presence, and he knew... or he tried to know, he tried to know he would find her. With pain and sorrow, he washed away his doubt. With solidarity, he steeled his belief into knowledge. Again, Alec enforced his will, that Sandra was not meant for the World Storm. She was meant to live again.

By the powers that be, Alec finds Sandra in that place, perceiving her not with the senses, but with his inner feelings. She is as Alec saw her by the light of Lothe's Lantern - scarred, broken, and frightened. But beneath the ugliness, there is strength, and the courage to do what is right, no matter the cost. Sandra's core being, buried under layers of wounds and conditioning. This is what Alec finds and brings back with him. Everything, good and bad, that constitutes Sandra. She gasps for air.

Alec's eyes tear open. He stares at Sandra with disbe- no, no, don't do that, bad, bad Alec, no. The baby gunman immediately hugged Sandra with all his human strength. "Sandra! Sandra, are ya- are ya okay? Does it hurt, can ya move? D-...do ya remember me?"

Sandra casts her eyes about in confusion. "What... what was that?"

"Uh-oh," Smiley says. "She's not all scrambled up there, I hope."

"Uh... depends on what yer.. referrin' to." Alec stares at her. "You were dead... We... we brought ya back... A lot's happened since the fight. Regent's... gone. Dead..."

"No great loss there," she says dismissively. "...Wait. I was dead. As in... how did you-... no, wait, you're Alec Smith. Damn..." she looks down at herself. "Looks like the Dark One decided to retailor my armor. Ruined."

Alec contorts his expression in confusion. "Wha- What? Wha'd'ya mean, 'yer Alec Smith,' what's that s'pose t' mean?" Alec then drops his gaze down to Sandra's voluptuous form. Quickly he removed his hands and sat back. "...Yeah, better fix that..."

99 turned back to the trio and approached them. His form shifted from the knight of durender to the inferian royal guard, to perhaps give Sandra some context of his identity. He'd stop before them. "Truly terrifying, indeed. It is fortunate you possess such a pathetic personality by contrast, Mr. Smith." He then observed Sandra. "Welcome back, ma'am. I hope your journey was not too unpleasant."

Sandra looks up at the Number from where she's sitting. "Hi there. Which one are you?"

"99," it announced. "I do not have a particular nickname, only perhaps a title. You may call me Guard, if you wish. Please do not mind me. My purpose here is rather self-explanatory."

"Guard? Wow, every time I meet one of you I get more depressed." Sandra holds her hands up, looking down at them. "I don't feel right. Sort of... different. And I'm not glowing. What did you do to me?"

"Uh... look to yer left n' you'll figure part'a it out." He motioned to the liqiud cordonium that had been forced out. "There was a golem... it, uh, gave part'a it's... blood, in a manner'a speakin', and it sort'a replaced yers. After that, yer body started t' mend itself n' we were able t' revive ya."

"I... see," she says, eyeing the rapidly-dissolving liquid. "So this must be... Truminum. That's ironic."

"Indeed," replies 99. "What you thought could kill you was also capable of sustaining you. But that is only because what lives in you is not designed to reject you. I would recommend you do not tamper with it, though. Your biology now resembles my master's... but unlike his, yours is of a singular nature. Disturbing it improperly may cause an irreversible failure. Perhaps with time, and the addition of proper knowledge, you can explore the possibilities of your new existence."

Alec gives the Number an annoyed glare. "Look, ya helped, great, thanks, but could ya jus' give us a minute?"

"If you prefer the company of Elsia, I could fetch her-"

"No- nevermind, jus', shh. Quiet. Fer ten minutes."

"...Very well." 99 went eerily quiet.

"Well, yeah, that's ironic too," Sandra says to 99. "But I was talking about how, technically, I'm exactly what my superiors wanted Prometheans to be. Liquid Cordonium... it's useful, but unstable. I would've needed a transfusion eventually. Now... I'm not sure. There's something... oddly familiar about this substance. Like I just remembered something I'd forgotten about. It's hard to explain."

"Well, it does have some ancient genius guy in it," Smiley blurts.

"What?!"

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PostSubject: Re: A Legacy Forgotten   Today at 7:22 am

Epilogue

The minds of mortals, at least those who inhabited Aeria, were the seats of the soul, where the mechanics of the mind could translate material reality into the realm of souls. It was a rare gift for a mind to be able to reverse this flow, to bring conscious thought into reality. These minds acted as gateways to the psychic realm, drawing their power from a higher plane, the font of all magic and life, the World Storm at the center of the Sphere. Millennia ago, the so-called “Dragon Gods” had forged artifacts for the purpose of exploiting these gateways, and in so doing, increase their power. These artifacts had required extensive mining for materials, the labor of thousands of workers and craftsmen, and the sacrifice of countless souls.

As history remembers, the dragons were defeated when man turned their own devices against them. The dragon artifacts were thought lost, but after many generations, one found its way into the hands of renowned tinkerer Tairne Welfyr. Studying the enigmatic workings of the ancient device, he was struck by inspiration. It is not known from where or what this dark spark came from, but such questions were pushed aside as he began constructing his greatest work.

The Infinity Conduit was a man-made means of channeling the otherwise uncontrollable maelstrom of power at the center of Aeria, the World Storm. With it, an entity could shift the balance of power across the entire Sphere, shaping reality itself as it saw fit, wielding the power of a God.

When at last the final piece was inserted, Tairne’s feverish desire to see it done disappeared, and in its place, an overwhelming horror at what he had wrought overtook him. It is said he took his creation and fled screaming into the Vault, ordering it sealed behind him, never to be seen again.

But what was done could not be undone. Any who heard of the Conduit’s existence sought it with unmatched ferocity. Across time and space, the forces of corruption pursued anyone with even a shred of information on the whereabouts of the Conduit. The Archfiend Malcavath had cleverly devised a gateway into the material realm, using possessed agents, through which the denizens of Hell poured forth in search of this legendary object. The search led to Durender, namely its Vault, in which the device was said to dwell. As one of Durender's Knights, Eleanor Duvedirfel was known to be able to open the vault. She had her spine broken by agents of Shar in their own search for the Conduit, but did not reveal its secrets before a timely intervention by the Archangel Zerachiel. The trail went cold after her death many years later, though Durender was subsumed by Malcavath's Rift.

Hundreds of years later, Ossus, with his many spies, learned of the Conduit, and dispatched one of His greatest champions on Aeria in search of it - Aqtamrajul, or the Dark One. This time, Eleanor's descendants, deemed more vulnerable, were targeted: Tyrion and his illegitimate daughter, Terri. The Dark One found Tyrion first, subjecting him to torture both physical and psychological. He was driven to the brink of madness by the creature, falling headfirst into the bottle as his only way of coping. He could not - or perhaps would not - give an answer, but did (unknowingly) aid in locating his own supposed daughter, in Sida. The young girl's mother defended her to her dying breath, which did little to hinder the Dark One. Terri herself did not possess any more information, despite similar methods employed. The Dark One kept its eye on her as she uncovered the reasons behind the attack, allowing her to lead it ever closer to its prize, as (it assumed) she was one of the only remaining individuals who could access it.

Eventually, Terri and her father made the journey to Durender to find and open the vault. Fortunately, they were not captured by the Dark One. Unfortunately, they instead fell into the hands of a coven of vampires, led by the Elder Drow known only as the Regent. To their disappointment, the innermost sanctum of the Vault could not be opened by Terri or Tyrion, but their rivals did not know that, which made the two valuable hostages. This paid off when someone came who could open the Vault - an arcane armsmen and self-professed monster-slayer by the name of Alec Smith.

Smith kept strange company: a mystical woman who glowed intensely, and a demon-possessed corpse. Despite their almost comical appearance, they commanded serious power. Yet, Alec had not come all this way for the Conduit - he was searching for an old friend, the very same Regent now had as his hostage. Thus, using Terri and Tyrion as leverage, the Regent was able to enter the Vault's inner sanctum alongside them, to see the Conduit firsthand - and, perhaps, have a chance to "acquire" it.

The Regent's plans, and by extension, Shar's, failed spectacularly - or maybe they didn't. The Conduit was kept out of Shar's hands, but also from everyone else who might use it against Her. The Dark One was slain, a blow that reverberated through the keening plains of Ossus' realm of Blight.

Regent was dead, as was the entire knight order of Durender, as well as most of its civilian population, all at the hands of the Dark One. Terri and Tyrion were alive, though the coven of vampires that had captured them were dead to the last, from Blight and grief at the loss of their Patriarch. But the battle was not over.

Kerodil had never been more vulnerable. The Rift to Hell had engulfed all of Inferia's capital in hordes of bloodthirsty demons, overwhelming its defenses and slaughtering surrounding towns and villages. The armies of Inferia lay scattered about the north, many not even aware of the loss of their home, starving from the lack of supplies from the south. Valen's armies had been decimated by the recent offensive, and the forces of the Vindicators who had long aided them were strangely absent. Durender was a ghost town, emptied of defenders.

Malcavath's centuries-long machinations had come to fruition. He would use the ruins of Incendis as a staging ground for an invasion of Aeria by the forces of Hell. It is said He walked the blood-soaked streets of Incendis in the body of God-Emperor Inferus, ancient and powerful beyond measure. He would win glory for his master, Baatorath, and rule the mortal plane as a living god.

Durender was to be an easy conquest, and the perfect place to set up a forward outpost. Three Hellknights of the Capitulus Superbia were dispatched as a scouting party. Only one returned, badly wounded, growling in the demonic tongue about a small force that had holed up in the keep. Seizing the place would not be so easy after all, but Malcavath liked a challenge.

From depths of Hell no mortal had ever dared glimpse, was awakened Devoratrix Dencenvisceri, third Eldest Dryke, a six-limbed lizard of composed of obsidian rock and living magma, as large as a mountain. By the power of Malcavath, this behemoth was granted wings which, contrary to all reason, lifted the creature’s massive body. Below where it flew, each wing-flap aroused a wave of flame and thunder that swept aside all but the bones of the earth. This embodiment of Hell’s dreadful power was to carry a warhost of Malcavath into Durender, obliterating any foolish enough to remain in its defense.

This unstoppable force met an immovable object in the form of Alec Smith, Sigma-14 (who went by Sandra), and two Prometheans who had escaped the destruction of the capital: Epsilon-3 and none other than Alpha-1, the first and most powerful Promethean. Yet the greatest among them was a new face - a snarky swordsman with striking blonde hair and hardened features, who fancied himself a Vindicator. As his ditzy bard was all too happy to proclaim, he was Marius Redwell, the son of Kain and Alyssa, heroes of the past age, named for the founder of the Vindicator order, and who bore an odd resemblance to the man.

Seeing this reincarnation of Marius Shire standing alongside a gathering of the most powerful individuals in the Sphere, the demons felt fear for the first time. And they were right to.

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A Legacy Forgotten
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